§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ * VISCOUNT CASTLEREAGH (Maidstone)
said it might be considered that he ought to suffer a certain amount of compunction in venturing to suggest the rejection of a measure which had been brought into the House under the patronage of the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman had already brought in two measures, both of which had met with an ignominious result, while one had been summarily rejected by those whom it was intended to benefit. Perhaps he might be justified in directing attention to an anology between the death of the Irish Council Bill and the birth of the present Bill, when he read the resolution passed by the United Irish League a week before the measure was brought into the House of Commons. That resolution was as follows —That, recognising the failure of the Land Act of 1903 to satisfactorily settle the question of evicted tenants, this meeting of the National Directory strongly impresses on the Government the desirability of pressing forward with the greatest possible despatch the Bill for the compulsory reinstatement of a class in Ireland which has suffered and lost so much in the effort to alter a system of land tenure in this country which has justly merited universal condemnation. We are strongly of opinion that any measure enacted for this desirable end should give full power to the Estates Commissioners to fix the price of land compulsorily acquired for that purpose.He thought they could draw a very decided analogy between the words of that resolution and the object of the Bill which he was endeavouring to induce hon. Members to assist him in rejecting. He took the novel and unusual course of moving the entire rejection of a measure with the object of which he was entirely in sympathy, because he maintained that in view of the manner in which the Bill was carried out and of the compulsory powers it contained, the Government were taking an entirely unjustifiable course. He did not propose to go into the details of the measure but to confine himself to the broad principles which he maintained were of such an injurious character that they should have been most carefully con- 1386 sidered. He sincerely hoped that even those hon. Gentlemen who had made up their minds on the question already would give him the indulgence of listening to the remark she put forward against the Bill. It might be said that the matter had already been discussed ad nauseam. He did not agree with that assertion. He did not think they had had an opportunity of adequately discussing the Bill, and even if they had had such opportunity they would be merely following the lead of the Nationalists, who, with one object in view, pursued it repeatedly, emphatically, and relentlessly. He proposed to do exactly the same in regard to this Bill. He thought it would be admitted that by reason of the closure which had been applied they had been unable to have that unfettered and free discussion of the Bill which was so essential for any measure and most essential for such a measure as this, which was professedly in the interests of all classes of the community at large. He maintained, however, that it was of such an unjustifiable character that they should have had an opportunity of discussing it at greater length. He did not propose to enter into the details of the Bill, nor should he be in order in speaking of the closure; but he ventured to say that this measure had been more deleteriously affected by the action of the closure than perhaps any other measure. This weapon of oppression in the hands of the Governments if continually made use of was bound sooner or later to vitiate and check if not entirely arrest the most useful work in which for centuries past the House had been engaged. He could not believe that anyone in the House could affirm that the course of the Bill had been of a peaceful character, and he did not know that anybody could claim that the Government entirely adopted that spirit of conciliation which was absolutely necessary for a peaceful settlement on the lines which they desired. He wished to say a few words in regard to his own attitude on this Bill. He said without hesitation that he was entirely in favour of reinstating the evicted tenants where possible, but he maintained that that should only be carried out in an amicable and peaceful manner, and care should be taken 1387 that the tenant who was replaced should be restored in such a position that he would always be able to make an economic success of his holding. He would say certainly let all evicted tenants be reinstated and let bygones be bygones. This should be brought about if it could be done in any measure at all without any injustice to any section of the community in Ireland. The action of the Bill would bring about injustice to a certain class of the community who were not, in the circumstances of the case, deserving of being oppressed. He had no bitter feeling whatever against the evicted tenants; on the contrary, he had a feeling of compassion for those who had been led away and wilfully deceived by hon. Gentlemen below the gangway or their predecessors into refusing to pay their rents to their lawful landlords, and to paying them instead into the coffers of the Plan of Campaign. It was necessary however, in this world that we should all pay more or less for the follies we committed; still he had compassion for those evicted tenants who had relinquished their holdings in the manner described. It was for this reason, where injustice could be avoided, that he was prepared to support the reinstatement of these tenants in their own holdings or any other holdings acquired for that purpose. But the views of those with whom he was associated, and of hon. Members below the gangway, as to the manner in which the reinstatement was to be effected, were, he believed, almost diametrically opposed. Hon. Gentlemen would credit him with a desire for a settlement of the question, but he protested against this Bill which had been forced through the House of Commons with the aid of an unwieldy majority, most of whom had a minimum of knowledge of Irish affairs, and whose desire for Home Rule emanated from a preference for the room of the hon. Gentlemen below the gangway to their company in the House of Commons, and who looked on the Committee and Report stages of the Bill with pleasure as a means of materially adding to the number of divisions they had attended; a valuable proof to their constituents of industry in the House of Commons. He thought the Bill was unnecessary, because the principle which it affected was being expeditiously carried 1388 out under the Land Act of 1903. The Report of the Estates Commissioners showed that in the three years which had elapsed since the Act was brought into force 1,000 evicted tenants had been reinstated in their holdings. In support of his contention that the Bill was unnecessary, he would refer to an authority that he knew would obtain weight in the House. He referred to the late Chief Secretary, Mr. Bryce, who said on 29th October last year —He entirely denied that it could be fairly said that the Act had failed in dealing with the evicted tenants. He did not think that the progress made had been inconsiderable, considering the difficulties which surrounded the question.That was a very important statement and a most decided justification of the view he put forward, that the Bill was of an entirely unnecessary character. He was convinced that what might be gained in additional expedition in reinstating these evicted tenants would be lost in the postponement for a generation, if not for a longer period, of that amicable settlement of affairs in Ireland which they all desired. He now came to the main objection to the Bill, viz., the principle of compulsion, which was a direct departure from all preconceived ideas of justice and equity— of justice between man and man— and a direct infringement of the rights and liberties of] the people. The analogy of acquiring land compulsorily for railway purposes was often cited, but he did not agree with it at all. The two purposes for which the land was to be compulsorily acquired were entirely different. A railway benefited a large section of the community, but in this Bill it was proposed to take land from one man and give it to another; it was proposed to evict one man from his farm simply for the purpose of putting another in his place. He maintained that this system was fraught with great danger to the rights and liberties of the individual and would have a far-reaching effect which the Government did not at the present moment contemplate. He believed that once compulsory power was given it would be extended to various matters which were not in the minds of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. Compulsion was the backbone of the Bill, and that was the reason why he ventured 1389 to move its rejection. The evicted tenant had emerged from the debates, so far as hon. Gentlemen below the gangway were concerned, as a sort of hero. He had been put forward as a man not sinning but as one who had been grievously sinned against, a man who had been summarily evicted at the whim of a capricious landlord. But they knew that the evicted tenant had been deprived of his holding for very good reasons, either because he was unable to pay his rent or had wilfully refused to pay the rent he had undertaken to pay, thus breaking the obligations into which he had entered. Under the Bill the evicted tenants were placed in the position of a privileged class, and were under no circumstances to be considered responsible for their misdeeds. The evicted tenant was to be replaced, if possible, in his original holding, and, if he mistook not, his arrears of rent were entirely ignored, while his debts were to be borne by someone else. All this was to be accomplished by ignoring the tenant who was called a "planter," who had nothing whatsoever against him except that he might be unpopular with a certain section of the friends of the lawbreakers. The planter had emerged from the debates as a man for whom no punishment was too severe — a man who, for his own pleasure, had assumed possession of a farm rightfully belonging to someone else, and was content to remain in it for the express purpose of annoying the evicted tenant. What were the real facts? The planter might have been in possession of his holding for twenty-five years. He might be a tenant; he might be an owner; he might have bought the land, and the circumstances might be such as to make it very harsh and hard to take him away from it. It was proposed under the Bill to reinstate the evicted tenants. There was nothing against the planter except, perhaps, that he had refused to be terrorised by the friends of the evicted tenant. He had perhaps gone so far as to ignore boycotting and other reprehensible devices which were brought about at the instigation of the agitators who professed to rule Ireland. He was for this purpose to be dispossessed of his holding and transferred to another part of the country; in a word, he was told that he had to begin life over 1390 again. That was the avowed object of the whole thing, and he asked hon. Gentlemen opposite did they, for one moment, believe that a system of that kind could possibly settle the condition of affairs in Ireland? What guarantee had they against further hostilities or that these unfortunate individuals who had been removed from their holdings would not again be required to move away? He maintained that this was no solution of the question, and that the Bill if put into force could under no circumstances bring about the object they all had in view. He went further, and maintained that it was absolutely beyond belief that a measure of this description could be tolerated by the House of Commons. He did not wish that the punishment of the evicted tenants should be eternal, that they should be punished for their follies for all time. He was willing to let by-gones be by-gones as he had said. The evicted tenant had deliberately dispossessed himself of the rights which were his, and he ought to be considered by hon. Members of that House as in a secondary position to the planter, to the man who had taken the farm, and probably had carried on a livelihood in a courageous and efficient manner. The attitude of the Irish Party always seemed to him to be a very curious one. He believed that their innate and hereditary animosity against the planter prompted them to extend unbounded and perfectly superfluous sympathy to the evicted tenant, at the risk of outraging all those preconceived ideas of liberty and fair play of which they were the professed champions. He did not desire to see a caretaker in the farm. He would like to see the evicted tenant back again so long as no injustice was done to anyone. The attitude of the Irish Party had undergone a certain amount of change in regard to these compulsory powers. The hon. and learned Member for Water-ford said in June, 1903, that there was no intention to put into the Land Act any provision by which pressure direct or indirect could be brought to bear on the existing tenants, and that he would be no party to compulsion of any kind. He would like to know what had been the cause of the change of attitude on the part of the hon. and learned Member. 1391 With regard to the number of tenants that were to be reinstated, they pressed the Chief Secretary in Committee to give them a little more information with regard to the number which it was proposed to reinstate in their holdings. The right hon. Gentleman could not claim to have been very explicit in the matter, and the Attorney-General went so far as to envelope all his statements with an air of great mystery. He would like the right hon. Gentleman to say that this Bill would be in operation only for a period of two or three years. There were no less than 4,000 tenants whose applications had been refused by the Estates Commissioners. What was to happen to them? As far as he could see from the Nationalist newspapers the demand for a settlement in regard to those 4,000 tenants would be brought up ad infinitum, and he looked forward, if the present Government remained in office long — and he hoped they would not — to other demands for reinstatement, and other deserving farmers would be evicted to make room for them. In conferring these powers on the three Commissioners the Government were adopting a very dangerous principle, because they were constituting an all-powerful body whose decisions would be of a final character. It might be said that this would be done on the grounds of economy because they did not wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to advance any more money for dispensing justice. It was an unheard of thing to appoint the purchaser of property as the arbiter of the price, and the proposal was bound to set up a series of gross anomalies. It was placing the Commissioners in a very serious position, and he did not think it would be possible for them to carry out their duties efficiently. He did not propose to say a word against the Commissioners, because he looked upon them simply as the machine for carrying out the duties allocated to them by their masters in office, and if there was any blame he should attribute that blame to the masters, who he considered were responsible for the actions of their subordinates. The argument had been continually put forward that these Commissioners were appointed by the Unionist Party. That was perfectly true, but they were appointed in con- 1392 nection with the Land Act of 1903, and the duties they had to carry out devolved upon them under that Act. He did not see any justification for expecting the Opposition to support the allocation of entirely different duties to them. It was obvious that if this Bill ever became law the first work of the Estates Commissioners would be to deal with the evicted tenants, and obviously the remainder of their duties would be carried on with difficulty because of the amount of work they would be called upon to perform. The Secretary for India in 1894 gave as a reason for setting up a separate tribunal that the Land Commission had enough to do. For that reason he hoped the Chief Secretary would see his way to setup a separate tribunal and allow the Estates Commissioners to continue the work they had been doing in the past with so much benefit to the evicted tenants, 1,000 of whom had already been restored. If this course were adopted he was convinced that the slight additional cost would be justified by the knowledge that justice would be dispensed all round. He had endeavoured to show why the Bill was unnecessary, and he had shown that the Land Act was working as expeditiously as possible. He protested now, and he would always protest against the entirely unjustifiable attitude the Government had adopted in introducing into the measure compulsory powers, which were entirely opposed to all their previous ideas. He sincerely hoped that if the Bill was not rejected it would at least be amended to such an extent that it might be handed down to posterity as a measure which would dispense justice and equity to all concerned.
§ MR. LONSDALE (Armagh, Mid.)
in seconding the Motion, said that the objections which he and his friends entertained to the Bill were not inspired by any disinclination to see the evicted tenants question finally disposed of. There was no truth in the suggestion made in the course of the debates that they desired to keep the question open. Such a statement was not only inaccurate and misleading, but obviously absurd. The Party which was responsible for the passing of the Land Act of 1903, which included provisions for the 1393 settlement of the evicted tenants question on fair and even generous terms, could not be justly accused of factious opposition to agrarian peace in Ireland. They opposed the Bill because they believed it had been formed in such a way as to inflict serious injustice upon a very large body of persons in Ireland. The Bill placed in the hands of the Estates Commissioners powers of coercion against landowners and a particular class of occupiers of agricultural land. It would enable the Commissioners to go to a landowner and say: "We want so many acres of your estate; we will pay so much for the land and no more. If you agree to those terms, well and good; if you do not agree, you are powerless to object. We mean to have the land, and we shall take it from you against your will." The Bill also empowered the Commissioners to go to a farmer who held a farm from which a tenant had been evicted and say to him: "You must clear out, we want your holding for another man. It does not matter to us how long you have been in occupation of the land, or what amount of labour you have put into the soil. It does not matter how much you may have spent in improvements, you must go. We will pay you a certain sum and give you a farm elsewhere, but in any case you must clear out." In addition it gave the Commissioners a tenure of office which placed them practically beyond the control of the executive and practically beyond the control of that House. A Bill which conferred upon three individuals such unprecedented powers of compulsion ought at least to have been closely examined in all its details before it was permitted to pass the House. It was introduced under the ten minutes rule, a rule which was intended to apply only to measures of an uncontentious character. The result was that of the fifteen clauses of which the Bill was composed only two, the first and third, had been discussed at all. Even those two clauses were only discussed in part, and the other thirteen clauses, which embodied most important principles, and set up the most drastic machinery of coercion, had been forced through the House literally without a moment's consideration so far as the details were concerned. That fact alone justified them in opposing the Third Reading of the Bill. In addition to that 1394 they contended that the case for compulsion in connection with the reinstatement of the evicted tenants had never been proved. He might go so far as to say that no real attempt had been made by the Government to justify the very drastic measures of compulsion which were introduced into the Bill. He did not object personally to the compulsory purchase of land. As a fact he voted for compulsion in the House years ago, when compulsion was thought to be the only means of settling the Irish land question, and he would be prepared to do so again if the necessity for compulsion was proved to exist. But he submitted that in order to justify the use of compulsion it must be shown conclusively that voluntary action had altogether failed, and that the question at issue could be finally disposed of only upon compulsory terms. On neither of these two points had the Government proved their case in connection with the Bill now before the House. As regarded the failure of voluntary action, the facts, so far as they had been ascertained, certainly did not support the view they were now considering. On the contrary, they established the contention that the reinstatement of the evicted tenants could be accomplished on voluntary lines, without any resort to the violent and oppressive methods which had found favour with the Government. There was the fact that over a thousand evicted tenants had already been restored to the land under the Act of 1903— by purely voluntary means, and with the assistance and good will of the landowners concerned. That was to say, a third of the whole number of persons who were entitled to be restored, according to the Report of the Estates Commissioners, had been placed in possession of holdings — without friction and without injustice to anyone. That had been accomplished in three and a half years, and there was every reason to believe that if the Government would devote their energies to expediting the working of the Land Purchase Act, the evicted tenants question would settle itself in a reasonable amount of time. But apart from that, the facts given in the Report of the Estates Commissioners showed that there was plenty of un-tenanted land which might be purchased at a fair price—sufficient, and more 1395 than sufficient, to place the selected 2,000 evicted tenants in possession of economic holdings. The land now in the hands of the Estates Commissioners was ample for that purpose. They said they wanted that land to satisfy the requirements of persons who wanted larger holdings. But that did not by any means represent the amount of land which they might acquire by voluntary sale. The Chief Secretary had admitted that in addition to the 80,000 acres now in the possession of the Estates Commissioners, they had received particulars of nearly 60,000 acres which the owners were willing to sell for the purpose of reinstating evicted tenants. Those 60,000 acres had been offered by 160 owners, and the fact showed that there was no disinclination on the part of landowners to sell all the land that could possibly be required— if they were offered the fair market price. The Government had failed altogether to show that compulsion was necessary. But in spite of that fact they had insisted upon giving these novel and dangerous powers to the Estates Commissioners, and had not accompanied them by any safeguards to prevent injustice being done to the persons against whom the powers were to be used. The refusal of the Government to afford any protection to landowners or tenants against the abuse of the powers given in the Bill constituted to his mind one of the main grounds for refusing to assent to the Third Reading. There was, however, one other objection to the Bill which he desired to submit to the consideration of the House. He objected to the Bill because it was intended to give preferential treatment to one class of tenant-purchasers, as compared with another and very much larger class of persons who, from every point of view, were in his opinion more deserving of consideration by the House. There were hundreds of farmers— in his own constitutency and in all parts of Ireland— who had been waiting for two or three years to obtain the advantages of the Land Act of 1903, and who would be kept out of the benefits of ownership for an indefinite period if the Bill passed in its present shape, and if it was worked as the Government evidently intended that it should be worked. He asked the House to consider for a moment the position of 1396 the class of farmers to whom he alluded. They had agreed with their landlords for the purchase of their holdings, but until the Estates Commissioners had investigated their cases, sanctioned the advances, and vested their holdings in them as purchasers, they had to pay interest on the amount of the purchase money. That interest represented a sum considerably larger than the amount of the annuity they would eventually pay to the State; and, in addition to that hardship, they were not advancing any nearer to the time when their farms would be absolutely their own property, without any charge upon it whatever. He submitted that the priority which the Bill would give to the evicted tenants was not in accordance with the terms of the arrangement embodied in the Act of 1903. He would like to call the attention of the House to Paragraph 15 of the Land Conference Report of 1902, which reads as follows—That any project for the solution of the Irish land problem should be accompanied by a settlement of the evicted tenants question upon an equitable basis.That proposal clearly indicated that the solution of the land question and the settlement of the evicted tenants question were to proceed pari passu, and it could not be shown, either by reference to the debates on the Bill of 1903 or to that Act itself, that there was any intention that the evicted tenants question was to be given priority in point of settlement. The Chief Secretary, on the introduction of this Bill, asserted that "one of the terms of this concordat" (that was to say, the understanding upon which the Act of 1903 was based) "was the speedy restoration of the evicted tenants." As he had shown, however, the right hon. Gentleman overstated the case. What was contemplated was undoubtedly the speedy settlement of the whole land question; but there was never any intention of giving priority to the evicted tenants over the other farmers who desired to become owners of their holdings. The Chief Secretary now attempted to justify the priority which it was proposed to accord to the evicted tenants by the argument that it was necessary in order to promote peace in Ireland. But did the right hon. Gentleman really suppose that he was going to 1397 promote peace by a Bill which would not only inflict injustice upon landowners and the class of farmers who were known as "new tenants," but also increase the hardships which the delay of land purchase was causing to the large class of tenant-farmers who had agreed to purchase under the Act of 1903? He did not see how he could hope to advance the peaceful settlement of the Irish land question by such means. It was evident that for some time to come the Estates Commissioners would be wholly engrossed in the work of reinstating the evicted tenants, and all the funds available for land purchase would be used for the purposes of this Bill. They could form no estimate whatever of the period of time which the work would take; because, as had again and again been pointed out, there was absolutely no element of finality in the Bill. The Chief Secretary had steadfastly resisted every proposal which was intended to limit the extent of the problem. When the 2,000 —more or less— whom the Government said they contemplated restoring to their holdings, had been reinstated, there would still remain upwards of 5,000 disappointed applicants for holdings, in whose behalf a fresh agitation would certainly be started; and there was nothing in the Bill to prevent the Estates Commissioners reopening the cases of the 5,000, and making a further selection of persons to be reinstated. He asked whether it was reasonable or just that the ordinary farmer who had supported himself by his industry, paid his way, and kept free from lawless agitation, should be kept in suspense, while the class of persons for whose special benefit the Bill was being enacted were given preferential treatment, which nobody could with truth say they had deserved. He ventured to say that it was neither reasonable nor just that this discrimination should be made to the prejudice of a most deserving class of men; and it was on this ground, as well as because he thought the measure was essentially unjust and oppressive, that he should vote against the Third Reading of the Bill. He begged to second the Motion.
Amendment proposed —
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day three months.'" —(Viscount Castlereagh.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ * MR. LARDNER (Monaghan, N.)
said he desired to make some observations of a general character in support of the Bill. He came from a part of Ireland where the agrarian conditions had made him familiar with the question of the evicted tenants. Those who knew the facts would admit that there was urgent-need for such a Bill as this. His own opinion was that it did not go far enough, but he could only congratulate the Chief Secretary on having had the courage to bring forward the measure, It was a matter of history that in 1903 an agreement was arrived at that the evicted tenants were to be restored to their holdings. That was assented to by both landlords and tenants, and it was only when the process of restoration was tried that the difficulties were disclosed which had necessitated the giving of compulsory powers to the Estates Commissioners. Though four years had elapsed since the Act of 1903 was passed, there were still a large number of tenants on the roadside with no prospect of consideration save that which this Bill would give. In the cases where tenants had already been reinstated in their holdings through the landlords offering no objection to the making of voluntary arrangements it had not been stated either by the Estates Commissioners or by hon. Members from Ulster that these men had not succeeded in their holdings. These tenants had been restored on the sale of estates by landlords who, were it not for the Act of 1903, would have themselves gone to the wall. There was another class of landlords — wealthy men — who could afford it and were determined to hold out for a prohibitive price and to keep the flag of landlordism flying until the last ditch was reached. There could be no peace in Ireland so long as men who had been evicted from their farms found those farms occupied, and the 1399 fruits of the labour of themselves and their fathers enjoyed by tenants generally brought from other parts of the country. So long as that state of affairs remained there would be no peace in Ireland, and the only remedy for it was, as the Chief Secretary had said and proposed in this Bill, the application of compulsion for the reinstatement of the evicted tenants. Of course, there was a howl from the Ulster Members, as there always was when any measure was introduced for the amelioration of the condition of the Irish people. There were two classes of people in Ireland— the Irish people and the Ulster Unionists. Any argument had been good enough for the Ulster Members to use in opposition to this Bill. He thought that on examination it would be found that the arguments of the Ulster Members were very like the outrages they had discovered in different parts of Ireland— there was not much in them. The first thing they did was to impeach the fairness of the Estates Commissioners, whom they now most bitterly attacked, and who had been for years engaged in fixing fair rents without any objection being made to them. The Estates Commissioners had also been engaged in the valuation of farms for pre-emption by the landlords when the tenants wished to sell, and no objection had been then made to them. The capacity of the Estates Commissioners for that business was proved by their long experience in the value of land, and that was the case with Mr. Bailey, against whom no word had been heard when he was an assistant Commissioner hearing applications to fix the fair value of a tenant's holding. It was said that the landlords had no confidence in the Estates Commissioners. He quite agreed. The landlords had no confidence in anyone unless they had him under their thumb or he was a pliant tool. He was under the impression that the Estates Commissioners had been appointed by the late Tory Government, but it was of a piece with their usual practice to discredit their own officers. It was said that there was no necessity for compulsion. But what were the facts? For many years there had been operating in Ireland a 1400 Labourers Act in order to provide healthy homes for the labourers, but the majority of the landlords had refused to sell sites for cottages for the labourers, who were now living in the most squalid conditions, even when a good price was offered them for the sites. Here were people who surely owed a duty to those among whom they lived, and it might have been thought that they would have given sites for cottages and small gardens to the humble labourers who worked their land. There was no method of dealing with such men except by compulsion. The hon. Member for Maidstone had said that compulsion was unheard of in land legislation, and the only analogy he could give was railways. He would suggest a better analogy to the noble Lord. Under the Act of 1881 the landlord got a right of pre-emption when the tenant offered his farm for sale. What did that mean? The tenant for some reason being anxious to dispose of his farm, intimated the fact to the landlord, who immediately said: "I want to buy it." The tenant sent in an application to the Land Commissioners, two of whom were now Estates Commissioners, to fix the true value of the farm, goodwill, and tenant's improvements on the holding, whereupon the landlord could compulsorily acquire the tenant's interest in the holding at a price which generally was a third less than the tenant would have obtained in open market. He would suggest to the hon. Members for Ulster that if there could be any doubt as to what action they should take in regard to this Bill, they should consult their constituents, who, he could assure them, would tell them that the Bill was as badly needed in Ulster as in any other part of Ireland. As to the applications which had not been sent in to the Estates Commissioners before 1st May, 1907, he knew of cases where the tenants were evicted but taken on as caretakers. These unfortunate men were afraid to send in to the Estates Commissioners their notices for reinstatement because they were afraid that the landlord would turn them out on the road. The agreement made in the Act of 1903 should be acted up to and carried into effect both in the letter and the spirit in the fullest sense of the word. Anyone who knew 1401 the condition of the country recognised that the matter should be dealt with at once if there was to be peace and prosperity in Ireland. He would ask hon. Members above the gangway to rise to considerations above party or personal interest with the desire to do what was really best for their country and for the tenants who had been evicted from their homes.
§ MR. MOORE (Armagh, N.)
congratulated the hon. Member for Monaghan on the excellent and moderate speech he had delivered, and the Nationalist Party on the accession they had obtained in the hon. Member to their ranks. He differed, however, from the hon. Member in regard to the agreement of 1903. If he was a party to that agreement he would rather cut off his hands than draw back from it, but it was clear to him that under the Act of 1903 it was believed that voluntary methods were going to be adopted; therefore it was not fair that Unionist Members should be accused by the Nationalists of breaking the agreement when the Unionist objection was that compulsory methods were expressly excluded by it. He had opposed this Bill from the outset, not so much in the desire to protect the landlord interest, although he considered that interest deserved protection, but because those who were called new tenants were treated under it unjustly and inequitably. These tenants were people who came to a great extent from Ulster, and Ulster Members would therefore be failing in their duty if they did not attempt to secure for them the full protection of the law. In performing that duty they had been beaten as a minority in that House, but great and important principles underlay the whole question. It was undoubtedly a day of triumph for hon. Members below the gangway who were identified with the principles of Socialism. [Laughter.] Hon. Members might laugh, but what he said was true. The Bill proposed to supply holdings in Ireland at an estimated cost of something like £2,500,000 of public money, for the benefit of from between 2,500 to 4,000 tenants. That was essentially Socialism; but in another respect it was 1402 not. Let the House understand where they were. He did not think he was doing any injustice to hon. Members below the gangway when he said that the Socialism in the Bill began and ended with the provision that the taxpayers were to contribute the money to put it in operation. But he always understood that the principle of Socialism was that one man was as good as another. He did not understand that it was part of Socialism to turn one man out of a farm and put another in his place. The Nationalists might also claim a triumph because they could, while seeking to controvert the views of the Sin Fein party, point out that in consequence of the pressure they had put on the Government they had succeeded in passing this Bill. He wished them joy of it. But who were the people who were to pay for these Socialist and United Irish League triumphs? It would not be the minority who had been outvoted in the House of Commons; it would be the new tenants— those who took the farms twenty-five years ago under the security of the law— those who took the land from which tenants had been evicted for non-fulfilment of their legal obligation. They had been a credit to the neighbourhood in the great majority of cases; they had proved industrious, hard-working, and law-abiding men, and it had been their obedience to the law alone that had rendered them so unpopular with the agitators of the United Irish League. These were the people on whom the sting of this injustice would fall. They had heard much of the love of the Irish tenant for his holding; were these tenants' feelings to be ignored? They had made these farms their homes; they had embarked their all in them; but the only sympathy extended to them was to be found in the suggestion of the hon. Member for Louth, that they should be deported to Canada. It was regrettable that the hardship should in the first instance fall on this inoffensive, humble, industrious class. But, as the hon. Member for Mid Armagh had pointed out, another class of people would also have to pay for this Socialist and United Irish League triumph, and that was the tenants all over Ireland 1403 who were seeking to buy their holdings. In 1884 the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture said he would not sanction taking land for evicted tenants because land purchase was then struggling and it would mean building a barrier across its path. At that time as much money was available for land purchase as could possibly be required; there were millions at the Treasury which could be resorted to. But to-day, although there was £30,000,000 of land under contract to be bought for which the Treasury was unable to find the money, they were under this Bill going to ask for £2,500,000 more for the reinstatement of evicted tenants. The Bill, indeed, created another injustice: it put a premium on eviction, and it held up as a public martyr the evicted tenant. It put him in a better position; it not only gave him a farm of 40 acres, but it handed him £300 with which to stock it, and turned out the man against whom for twenty-five years he had been uttering vindictive threats. Thus a premium was put on the status of the evicted tenant, who was being made a most prosperous and successful martyr. As he had said, all these Socialist and Nationalist triumphs would have to be paid for, and most of all by the Liberal Party. In succumbing to such pressure that Party was sowing seed the harvest of which would have to be reaped in other fields. The principles of this Bill would have to be carried into other things. How could Liberal Members denounce Socialism when they set their hand and seal to such a Bill? They did not get rid of these deserving tenant-farmers whom they were sacrificing merely by calling them "planters" and "grabbers." These men had a right to protection and justice, and they were being abandoned by the Liberal Government just as Gordon was abandoned. It was a cruel and crying injustice that the Liberal Party should run away from the very men whom by all the laws of honour and conscience they were bound to protect. It was more than an injustice—it was a crime; and so long as he had 1404 power to voice his opinion in that House he would protest against it.
§ Sir WALTER NUGENT (Westmeath, S.)
said that the eighteen stalwarts above the gangway who had talked the House empty two or three times had proved that there was no opposition to this Bill in any quarter of the House except that which they occupied. Even their own Front Bench had not supported them. The Leader of the Opposition had contributed some very delightful speeches, but he had washed his hands of the hon. Members for Ulster, and had poked fun at them but refused to support them, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin had told the House that if he thought the Bill would end finally the evicted tenant trouble he would vote for it. It could not be said that the opposition to the measure was very virile. Hon. Members for Ulster wanted more time for the discussion of the Bill only to induce the House of Lords either to make the Bill worthless or to reject it altogether. But he could not believe that noble Lords were so simple as to fall into the clumsy trap of the hon. Member for North Antrim.
§ SIR WALTER NUGENT,
continuing, said he meant, of course, the hon. Member for North Armagh. Let hon. Members be merciful as they were strong, and not drag down the noble Lords with themselves to that ignoble death, but let them end their days in a more glorious action than that of trying to deprive a handful of unfortunate Irish tenants of the promises made them by two consecutive Governments.
§ * MR. BUTCHER (Cambridge University)
assured the Chief Secretary that Irishmen and Englishmen on that side felt as genuine a desire to solve this troublesome question as he did. But they offered the most uncompromising opposition to the Bill as it now stood. Personally he could never vote for such a Bill, but he desired 1405 to know whether any compromise was possible which they could accept. The Land Act of 1903 was intended to be the end of a long agrarian struggle, and the new era was inaugurated by a general amnesty. As the hon. Member for East Mayo said at the time, it was to close the chapter of war and open the chapter of peace. No doubt it was a serious thing for public money to be given for the reinstatement of tenants who had lost their holdings either through lawlessness, incompetence, or misfortune. But three considerations prevailed, and he thought rightly. First, that the paramount interest of Ireland was peace; secondly, that the problem as then presented was one of moderate compass, the hon. Member for East Mayo estimating the number of cases to be dealt with at 400; and thirdly, the most important point of all, that all the transactions under the Act of 1903 were to be purely voluntary. No compulsion was to be brought to bear on either landlords or new tenants. But, despite the fact that the concession was made to the evicted tenants as the price of peace, since 1903 there had been a renewal of agrarian war in Ireland. Moreover, the number of tenants to be dealt with had gradually mounted up, the 400 had become 2,000, even after all deductions had been made. Naturally this increased the difficulty of the solution, but in his opinion it need not be a fatal bar. The crucial point was that the voluntary basis had been abandoned, and the Legislature was asked to step in and bring about the reinstatement of these tenants by compulsory means. There they came to the heart of the difficulty. The new tenants under this Bill might be evicted against their consent. They on that side, however, held that the State was under an obligation of honour to the planter, as he was called. The word of the State had been pledged to him, but it was not merely a legal obligation. The planter, in many instances, had performed a real public service by displaying moral courage at a critical time when it was not easy to do so. Was his courage and honesty to be visited with penal consequences? No man of honour would be guilty of such desertion in private life; was it less dishonourable conduct in the State? The Chief Secre- 1406 tary had never fairly met that argument. He treated it as a flimsy thing of little substance. Anyhow that was not the view of his colleague and predecessor in office, the Secretary for India. When he was responsible for the government of Ireland and brought in an Evicted Tenants Bill, in 1894, the right hon. Gentleman recognised that this was the crux of the difficulty; and what was more, he saw that he had a debt of honour to the new tenants, and he stood by them loyally. These were his words —I always said, in spite of the representations made to me, that these men shall not be put out against their will.The present Chief Secretary had, indeed, declared that bona fide farmers should not be dispossessed from their holdings. But there was nothing in his Bill to prevent this, and, indeed, many demanded their expulsion. Let him, therefore, give legislative force to his intention. Let him insert an express provision to the effect that no tenant, genuinely farming this land, should come within the scope of the evicting clauses of the Bill. For himself he was much against bringing compulsion to bear even on the so-called "bogus farmer" or caretaker. But his case was less strong; it might, to some extent, be met by money compensation or by the offer of a farm elsewhere. If only full safeguards were provided for the genuine farmer, the possibility would be afforded of a compromise in the interests of peace. He would earnestly submit this to the consideration of the Chief Secretary Next, as to compulsion on the landlord. Compulsory power for acquiring land for a public object was no new principle. Everyone was familiar with the ordinary procedure. But what was new and unheard of was the proposal to invest three, or rather two, men with a roving commission to go through Ireland, to descend on any land they chose, to take what they would, from whom they would, and at what price they would, and all without appeal. That was without parallel in the history of the legislation of this country. Was it not plainly equitable that the landlord should have an appeal against these decisions, and also that any planter whom it was proposed to oust should have a similar appeal? Probably no better tribunal could be suggested for this purpose than the Judge 1407 of Assize. The two matters he had insisted on— the protection of the planters and the right of appeal— were of primary moment. There was one other less vital perhaps, but of high importance, and that was that there should be some strict limitation of the number of tenants to be reinstated. Already the list of applicants had been sifted and sorted. The Commissioners had arrived at 2,000 as the probable number of claims which should be admitted. The Chief Secretary had refused to bind himself to the precise figure of 2,000 on the ground that he did not wish to close the door on a few outstanding cases, half a dozen more or less. Well then, let him allow a margin sufficient to cover all such contingencies; let the maximum number be fixed at 2,040 or 2,050. The precise figure mattered little, but a definite limit mattered much. Applicants who had been ruled out should remain out. If t he Bill gave power to reopen these cases the original 8,000 applicants would all press for their claims to be reconsidered. We would have before long two permanent Commissions sitting in Ireland, one to declare what was a fair rent and the other to reinstate those who had not paid it. What was now adopted as a political necessity would tend to become a principle of policy. Nor let it be forgotten in discussing this question of evictions that the State was already far the biggest landlord or rent collector in Ireland. Each year was adding to its financial responsibilities. Tenant-farmers were becoming proprietors of their holdings. The mere transfer of land from one set of owners to another would not get rid of poverty or distress. There were a large number of uneconomic holdings tenanted by uneconomic men. Some of these men would, he feared, become insolvent. The State was bound to look ahead. It would be a bad start to evict tenants who bad paid their rent in order to restore others who had not paid, some of whom would probably be again evicted five years hence. It might tide over a Party difficulty in the House of Commons, but it would add to the economic dangers of the situation and lay up a store of trouble for the future.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Kildare, S.)
said the last speaker had expressed a hope 1408 that this Bill would come back from another place in an altered form. The Leader of the Party of which the hon. Gentleman was a Member expressed a like hope in respect of another Bill on another occasion, and the Members of the other place obeyed his invitation. Was the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University about to usurp the leadership of the Party and address an invitation to the Members of the other House with the expectation that they would respond to it? The hon. Member had said that the Bill was opposed by all hon. Members on his own side of the House above the gangway. The fact was that whenever there was a measure before the House calculated to benefit the people of Ireland the hon. Member for Cambridge University was sure to be found opposing it At one time they hoped that Ireland had his sympathy— that was in the early days of his career in that House— when he made a certain speech in regard to education, but since then he had never failed to oppose every suggestion for the relief of his fellow countrymen, he never lost an opportunity of backing up the very worst statements regarding Ireland that were made by Members for Ulster, and he never failed to puncture the erudite collegiate lectures he addressed to the House with the abuse of his country, and his countrymen, such was his bad taste. [Cries of "Oh!"] Of course the term "bad taste" did not commend itself to some of the hon. Gentleman's friends. It was a bad thing for the hon. Members above the gangway who opposed the Bill that the evicted tenants who sought to be restored gave their Party the opportunity in 1903 of introducing the Bill which was probably the one Act in the last Parliament which entitled them to the gratitude of Ireland, and the one really good statesmanlike measure they passed into law. It was bad taste on their part to oppose the Bill that gave one of their most ornamental Members, the Member for Dover, the opportunity of establishing his character as a statesman, and it was also bad taste on their part to oppose a measure introduced to benefit the men who enabled their Party to pass a Bill to relieve their own class in Ireland— the landlords. It was the most exquisite bad taste on the part of the hon. Member for North 1409 Armagh to oppose the Bill for the reinstatement of men who enabled the House to pass a measure that made it possible for him to sell his land at probably ten years' purchase more than it was worth. He was informed that the hon. Member for North Armagh got thirty years' purchase for the land he held. They had had from the noble Lord the Member for Maidstone, who moved the rejection of the Bill, a lot of lip sympathy with the evicted tenants. He was burning with anxiety for their restoration. He hoped that they would be restored at some future time. He had no feeling of enmity against them whatever. How did it come to pass, then, that he and those who acted with him had opposed the Bill at every stage, and that the noble Lord had stated that he would oppose it to the very end? That was a very curious way of showing his sympathy with the evicted tenants. The noble Lord was not content with that statement, but he accused the Nationalists of the crime of turning the planters out on the roadside. The word "crime" came badly from the mouth of an Irish landlord. The noble Lord and his family had large estates in Ireland. Other hon. Gentlemen above the gangway and their friends had also large estates there, and they ought not to mention the word "crime," for their whole career as landlords in Ireland was one continued crime.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR
said he would tell the hon. Gentleman, whose family also had large estates in Ireland. He was not old enough to remember the coffin ships which went away after the famine of 1846–7, which the landlords did nothing to prevent.
§ MR. ASHLEY
said that on the estate with which his father was connected very much money was spent in building roads and harbours during the famine.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR
said that this country and the whole civilised world had to come to the aid of the people of Ireland. The landlords exacted their rents in that period just the same. The word "crime" therefore did not fit in their mouths, for their system and the laws 1410 passed to maintain Irish landlordism in its oppressive and extortionate demands had reduced the population of Ireland from 8,000,000 or 9,000,000 as it was in 1846 to something like 4,500.000 now. Was not that a crime? Why the bed of the Atlantic from Ireland to America was whitened with the bones of the people who had been driven out of their homes by the criminal system of which hon. Members above the gangway were the representatives in that House. They were told by those representatives of Irish landlordism that they were guilty of the crime of turning the planters out of holdings where they had been for so many years. They were told by the noble Lord that they regarded the evicted tenants as heroes. Yes, they did. He said they were law-breakers. Were there no law-breakers in the history of countries other than the evicted tenants of Ireland? Were there not found in the history of the world law-breakers who were regarded as heroes by the people who read history? They regarded these men as heroes, because at the time of great stress and trouble they manfully went out of their own homes so that a change might be brought about in the law which would enable people to live and thrive on their own farms. It had been said by almost everyone who had spoken against the Bill that they objected to it because of the principle of compulsion in it. Was there not before the House a Bill called the Small Holdings (English) Bill in which there was to be found the principle of compulsion in a much greater degree than was proposed in the Bill they were discussing? It did not provide for the compensation of anybody who might be disturbed, whilst this Bill did provide for compensation for disturbance of the new tenants. The principle of compulsion had been always adopted by that House and by the country when it was for the public good. Those who took the opposite view said they knew of only one precedent, viz., that of taking land for the making of railways and for public purposes. But that was for the convenience of the people. It was admitted that there could be no peace in Ireland where evicted tenants were sitting down watching their holdings either derelict or in the possession of persons who were 1411 undoubtedly objectionable to them and to their neighbours, and he would say that the peace of Ireland or any important part of Ireland was of much higher consequence than the convenience of the people which was the basis for the compulsory acquisition of land under the Land Clauses Acts. It had been repeatedly stated that they who sat on those benches stated in 1903 during the passage of the Land Act that no pressure would be brought to bear upon the new tenants. Had any pressure been brought to bear upon them? Had hon. Members above the gangway been able to produce one instance where pressure had been brought to bear upon any one of the new tenants there would have been some reason in their statement. He had listened attentively to the debates, and he had never heard any statement contradictory of the promise made by the hon. And learned Member for Waterford that no pressure would be brought to bear upon the new tenants. Why, it would be asked, should compulsion be introduced and why did they say it was absolutely necessary? It was necessary because after four years trial without pressure being brought to bear upon the new tenants the evil still existed, and was likely to continue to exist unless pressure, not outside, but within the law, was Used for the purpose of removing men without injury to them and restoring the evicted tenants. He submitted that there was absolutely no force in the argument used against the compulsory clauses in the Bill. They were absolutely necessary. Four years experience had shown that the Act of 1903 was inadequate for the purpose. It had, therefore, become necessary to introduce this measure and to include in it such powers as would enable the Government to remove those who were an obstacle to the settlement of the question and in order to restore to their holdings men who, by their self-sacrifice, made possible the passing of the Act of 1903, which was such a credit to the Party who now opposed this Bill, which they all trusted would result in lasting benefit to the Irish people.
§ MR. SLOAN (Belfast, S.)
said he had listened to practically all the speeches delivered against the Bill, and he could 1412 not find out that any objection was taken to the principle of the reinstatement of evicted tenants. In fact the very moderate and eloquent speech of the noble Lord who moved the rejection of the measure, so far from persuading him to vote against it, rather confirmed his idea as to the necessity of the reinstatement of the evicted tenants. The noble Lord had made a statement which came to him like a bolt from the blue. He had told them that it was necessary to let bygones be bygones, and that in the interests of peace and for the cessation of agrarian trouble the evicted tenants should be reinstated. He had also pointed out how the Act of 1903 justified that contention, and that in three and a half years 1,000 of the evicted tenants had been reinstated. He could not reconcile the speech of the noble Lord with that of the hon. Member for North Armagh, who had pointed out that this was a dangerous business — that it had the -taint of Socialism, or in other words, the taint of the United Irish League. He did not mind whether it had the tanit of Socialism or of the United Irish League, provided the admitted grievance was removed. It was admitted by all parties that it was a desirable thing that these tenants should be reinstated. The only difference between them was that the Government and the Chief Secretary were anxious to effect the restoration as quickly as possible while the Opposition desired that it should be done under the Act of 1903 as in the past, viz., at the rate of 1,000 in three and a half years. He represented South Belfast, and he had never discovered that this question of the reinstatement of the evicted tenants had ever been discussed in that constituency. He did not think the attention of Belfast had been seriously called to the subject. The pledge given by that House, however, if it was to be worth anything at all, ought to be carried out. They were told that if the present possessors, the planters or new tenants, were disturbed, they would suffer grievous harm; they would be turned out of their holdings for the sake of the evicted tenants, and if he thought for a moment that they would be injured he would not vote for the Bill. And that was just the thing he wanted to know. If he thought that the Govern- 1413 ment, coming in with a measure for the purpose of reinstating the evicted tenants would do an injustice and inflict hardship and harm on the new tenants he would certainly vote against the measure. But these planters had the choice of other holdings. [Cries of "No."] Well, they had not got the choice; it was very little choice that tenants of Ireland ever got. The question of choice was a new theme to advocate on that side of the House. In any case, however, the tenants were to be compensated, or they were to be put into holdings which would enable them, if they were economical, to make as comfortable, decent and prosperous a living as where they were now. It was a very generous action that they should be enabled to remove themselves to other holdings. [Cries of "They are removed."] Well, they were removed by Act of Parliament, if they liked; but for what purpose? For the purpose of enabling those whose ancestors had been for generations in a holding to be sent back to that holding. If it was said that the present tenants, the planters, were to be evicted to attain that object, the reply was that they were only evicted as a means to the reinstatement of the originally evicted tenants. They were not to be turned out on to the roadside as were the unfortunate people previously evicted. They were to be put into possession of other holdings. All that was asked was that there should be peace in Ireland. Strife had been going on for too long among one section of the country only, and not among the democracy. They desired to put an end to that strife, which would be for the good of the country, whether they called it Socialism or not. In the North of Ireland they were sick and tired of being constantly warned about the Union being in danger, and of seeing the progress of the country blocked in the interests of a particular class. He did not object to hon. Members near him advocating landlordism; but if they did that, why not do it openly, and not under the guise of the Union? Every Member of the House who had an open mind and a desire to help his country must wish that religion and politics should not intervene where the object was to help a class who could not help themselves. No man could come to the House but was bound to regret the attitude of 1414 certain sections of it towards the efforts of a humble class to get back to the soil of their fathers. He had no fear about going back to his constituency to justify the votes he had given on this Bill. Only justice was demanded. He did not say that it was unitedly demanded, for he did not think they would ever be united in Ireland, though there were some questions on which they might be united. It was an unfortunate thing that they could not come and ask the House unitedly for the removal of a grievance in Ireland. The cause of progress in Ireland had been blocked by religious bickerings which ought never to enter into social reforms. It was with a view to trying to erase these insane obstacles, to remove, if possible, unnecessary arguments against progressive measures which benefited the whole country, irrespective of any class, that he most cordially supported the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ MR. GORDON (Londonderry, S.)
said he thought he could not do better than call the attention of the House to the most extraordinary misapprehension of the entire question shown by the hon. Member for South Belfast. So far as he understood, everyone on those benches had expressed his desire that the question of the evicted tenants should be settled, and no one had objected to the principle of compulsion being applied where it could be shown to be necessary. But the difference between them arose as to the method in which the reinstatement of the evicted tenants was to be effected, and on this issue there was fair ground of objection against the Bill. He thought one of the first duties of the House, once they were agreed that a certain thing should be done, was to do it in the way least injurious to others interested. What were the objections which had been raised? He did not propose to deal with the speech made by the hon. and learned Member below the gangway nor with the speech of another hon. Member according to whom there ought to be no Third Reading at all, and once the Government had a sufficient majority to express its will no one else should be allowed to open their lips. That was a position to which the House of Commons had not yet attained, and he trusted that some of those who 1415 at on the opposite benches agreed with him in hoping that it would never be attained. That Honse was a place where freedom of discussion ought to exist and be encouraged. What were the questions they had to deal with? First of all, this Bill had never been adequately considered by the House. It was brought in hastily. It was perfectly true that it was referred to in the King's Speech, but they could not shut their eyes to the fact that its introduction was due to the failure of a bigger measure which did not meet with the acceptance of the persons for whose benefit it was supposed to be introduced. The present Bill was brought in under the ten minutes rule, which shortened the time for discussion; in Committee the closure was applied, with the result that some of the clauses of greatest importance were not considered at all. A matter of vital importance was what was to happen to those tenants who were called planters? There was a very large number of tenants at the present moment in Ireland, representing holdings valued at about £20,000,000, who had agreed to purchase those holdings, and had entered into agreements, not with landlords who were impecunious and driven to sell, as had been suggested by the hon. and learned Member below the gangway, but with landlords who although perfectly willing and able to keep their lands, but come to terms with their tenants. Those tenants, many of them, were not one day nearer the time when they would become the owners, and they were accordingly still paying interest. Then the resources of the Irish Land Commission for completing those sales were to be reduced by £2,500,000. What had those tenants done that they should be set back — by the period represented by that sum? What sin had they committed that they should be treated in that way? In regard to those tenants who had been evicted, what was to happen? They took an estate, for example, which the tenants were anxious to purchase, but not one of them had yet purchased their holdings. They were fulfilling their engagements honestly; they were industrious and in every way deserving; and yet it was proposed to put beside them one or more of the evicted tenants. 1416 He was not going to attack the whole of the evicted tenants; but it might be that among them they would find men who had been neither industrious nor careful, and had brought themselves into a position which would not be occupied by anyone of ordinary prudence and industry. One of these men might be brought back and planted as a purchaser in the midst of honest tenants who were still ordinary tenants under judicial rents. Did they think that a fair and reasonable course to adopt? That was the position brought about by the Bill, and he thought the House ought to have seen that means were taken that no such position was made possible. They were told that the new tenants or planters had never been interfered with; but what was going to be done now? They were going to be removed whether they liked it or not. It was said they would be as well off and as comfortable as before; but if that was the intention of the Government, why did they not give the tenant the power to refuse or to consent? That would get rid of a good deal of the injustice of the Bill. Until something of that kind was done it was very little consolation to the man who had made a home that he should be turned out and put in another place whether he liked it or not. The Government said there had been no undue pressure, but the same thing might have been said before the Land Act of 1903 in reference to owners of large tracts of grazing land. When that Act was passed it led people to think that they ought to have such land for economic holdings, and the result had been cattle driving and outrages. It was compulsion exercised by people to drive the graziers from the land, and they had cattle driving as it existed in the West of Ireland. He had heard the excuse suggested that, the Legislature having provided certain things, the people thought they were working out too slowly, and that was the reason for their taking the law into their own hands. The same course would be adopted here. The people who wanted to get hold of the farms would exercise pressure on the same principle as it had been exercised in reference to grazing land. A man who went to the Commissioners and objected that he was not being 1417 fairly treated would be a marked man. Surely that could be guarded against in a measure of this kind. Surely these things ought not to be encouraged. It should not be beyond the power of the Chief Secretary and his advisers to suggest some safeguard, and he asked the House to say, at the last moment, that such a state of affairs ought in some way to be provided against, and that no inducement should be held out to the people to treat new tenants as they had treated the owners of the grazing farms. Then with regard to the fixing of prices, that was a matter that went to the root of the Bill, though the objection they urged against it was not one which they raised for the purpose of rejecting the Bill altogether. That had never been his attitude. His attitude was — let them have a Bill, but let it be on reasonable lines, so that the rights of the people affected by it were properly safeguarded. Then there would be very little opposition to it. There was no reason, justice, or necessity for making the Commissioners fix the price. It would be very easy to appoint a different tribunal. Another tribunal might give a less price, or it might give the same price, but at least it would give the person interested some idea that he was getting fair play. He denied that the purchaser of a property was the best tribunal in the eyes of the seller to determine what should be paid. No legislation had ever been enacted where a man who was to take land was to be the sole, ultimate, and absolute arbiter of the price to be paid. Why did not the Government offer an arbitrator to be appointed by the Local Government Board?
§ MR. GORDON
did not know. Would the right hon. Gentleman insert some such provision in his Bill? If not, why not?
§ MR. GORDON
thought that was a novel remark to come from the right hon. 1418 Gentleman. He had not heard it before. Under this Bill they had to determine what was to be given to the new tenant on the principle of what was given by a landlord when he had taken on a holding under the Land Act. He had been accustomed to the argument that the Commission in such cases had not given nearly enough to the tenant, and that when the tenant had had to give up his holding to his landlord he had been deprived of several years purchase. He had never yet heard of a tenant who did not complain and justly complain that the price given to him was not sufficient. That was what they were going to give to the new tenant.
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL FOR (MR. CHERRY, Livrpool, Exchange)
The hon. Member is confusing this question with the time value fixed under Section 1 of the Act, the principle of which is different from that applied in cases of resumption under Section 5. We are giving the fullest compensation ever given under an Act of Parliament to a tenant quitting his holding.
§ MR. GORDON
said he was surprised to hear that the principle was different. Yet that was how they were going to deal with the tenants under this Bill. They were going to be turned out prices which no ordinary farmer would agree to. He thought that these tenants ought to be fully compensated and indemnified if they were to be touched at all. No matter what Party was in power, when they were dealing with property compulsorily, it was the duty of everyone to see that ample, justice was done to the parties interfered with. He did not think the questions he was dealing with should affect the passing of some measure to settle within a reasonably short space of time the evicted tenants question. It was idle to go back to the question of how they came to be evicted to do anything which would cause any real or substantial delay if a speedy settlement could be brought about on reasonable terms. But it was equally important when they were doing it to take care they did it in such a way as would effect the least injustice 1419 and inspire the most confidence in the people affected. He had lived in Ireland longer than the Chief Secretary and he knew how these questions were discussed. People thought a question was settled and after a little while someone came and said "You have not gone half far enough, you ought to have dealt with so and so," and the agitation was resumed as strongly as ever. Here the Government had limited the matter to 2,000 tenants and must therefore rule out 4,000 or 5,000 claims. The right hon. Gentleman would have these people saying they had been badly treated and asking why they should not be included with the others. For his own protection he entreated the right hon. Gentleman to put into the Bill some limitation of numbers or of acreage or something which would in some way show that Parliament intended to deal finally with the evicted tenants question in this Bill.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
said that the difficulties to which reference had been made had arisen through the Government of the day ignoring the representations made by the representatives of Ireland. That applied not only to the present but also to the past, because the voice of the people constitutionally expressed had been ignored. He desired to allude to a matter of considerable importance. The Member for West Water-ford introduced a clause on the Report Stage which was debated and supported by the hon. Member for the City of Water-ford, and the Nationalist Party thought it was so important that they divided the House upon it. They fully recognised that the Chief Secretary had carried out the undertakings he gave at the commencement of the Session with regard to this Bill, and they were consequently very loth to divide the House upon any question which they did not think was of material importance. He failed to see why the Government had refused to adopt, at any rate, the principle of the clause moved by his hon. friend. It suggested the cheapest and the most expeditious method of acquiring land in Ireland for the purposes of restoration, and it was an absolutely safe process from the Treasury point of view. It simply suggested that where land was offered the 1420 Government should acquire it if, in the opinion of the Estates Commissioners, acting upon the report of their inspectors, it was considered to be good security for the money asked for it. No compulsory powers were asked for in such a case. In the past, although the Estates Commissioners had considered the figure at which land was offered them perfectly reasonable, they had not had power to act with the result that land which was suitable for restoring the evicted tenants had passed into the hands of large graziers who gave no employment what-so ever to the inhabitants. He hoped the Chief Secretary would be able to do something to meet their wishes in this direction.
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
said that before the debate closed he was anxious to say a few words in regard to the position of the Opposition and also to repeat in a slightly varied form the objections he had to urge against the policy of His Majesty's Government. He did not as a rule complain of the criticism of his opponents, but he thought ho had every reason to complain of the violence and the taste of the attack made upon his colleagues and himself by the hon. Member for South Belfast. The violence of his language was certainly not equalled by anything which came from hon. Gentlemen below the gangway, and it would have been in better taste and more in conformity with the usual practice of those who generally acted together, if the hon. Member had contented himself with explaining his own position without thinking it necessary to ascribe to others motives for which there was not the smallest foundation. He had stated more than once that so far as the reinstatement of the evicted tenants went, they were anxious that it should be carried out, and when that declaration was followed by a criticism of the measure the Government had produced they were told the one indicated the insincerity of the other. He entirely denied that statement. It was absurd, it was almost immoral, to tell any body of men that in any great question they were to be governed by the doctrine, that the end justified the means. There was no other argument by which the charge against the Unionist Party could be established. 1421 To lay down as a proposition against which there was no answer that because they were in favour of the reinstatement of the evicted tenants, and had been since the Act of 1903, they were therefore to give their approval and support to any measure the Government saw fit to introduce to carry out that object, was to seek to establish a rule which would operate immediately against hon. Members opposite, and one which when in Opposition they had not endeavoured to apply to themselves. He recalled many measures produced by the late Government to attain objects which had many supporters on the other side, but which were opposed by hon. Members opposite with all the vehemence they could command because they disapproved of the method adopted. Nobody who had made the most elementary study of the agrarian question in Ireland, especially in its more recent developments since the passing of the Act of 1903, could be ignorant of the fact that the reinstatement of a certain number of the evicted tenants was a matter of the greatest importance. It was natural that men who were living within sight of their old homes, and who believed, and he thought justly in some cases, that they were evicted not for sins on their own part, but because they held a particular view and had accepted particular advice, should view with feelings of the profoundest dissatisfaction and dislike other people living in the homes that once were theirs. In these cases there could be no two opinions as to the desirability of reinstatement. He did not deny that there were many cases which, though they could not be described in similar language, were closely allied to these; and, therefore, as to a large number of the evicted tenants, there had never been any difference of opinion as to the desirbility of reinstatement. The present question, however, was not whether it was desirable or not to reinstate evicted tenants. It was only in a minor degree as to the method by which the evicted tenants were to be selected. It was a much larger question. It was the method and machinery by which the policy of reinstatement was to be carried out, and because the Unionist Party had criticised and opposed this Bill it was not either just or fair to say 1422 that they were in consequence to be held to be opposed to the reinstatement of these people. They had asked repeatedly what was the need of a Bill of this kind, and had never had any satisfactory reply from the Government. They had raised the case of the new tenants and had argued, he thought, with great force and justice, that the way in which they were to be treated was altogether indefensible. The answer of the Government had been that in the majority of cases the new tenants were not bound to their holdings by ties of affection: that they had not established for themselves a reputation as stable and successful tenant farmers; and that therefore they would be glad for themselves, and for certain social reasons to which the Attorney-General had referred, to be removed. Out of 3,000 men qualified to be reinstated, over 1,000 had been provided for under the existing law; and that number had been considerably increased under private arrangements, such as that on Lord Masserene's estate, where a settlement had been brought about by methods satisfactory to all concerned, and highly creditable to that noble Lord and to those who had assisted him. What proof was there that compulsion in any form was needed? He was not, however, an idealist; he was a practical politician— at least he hoped so— and he would be foolish indeed, and quite oblivious of all that was going on, if he expected his Majesty's present advisers to produce any measure dealing with land which did not contain compulsory powers to be used against the present owners. He quite realised it would be desiring the impossible to expect the present Government not to have included some measure of compulsion in their Bill. He went further and admitted that there were undoubtedly circumstances in which it might be necessary to introduce the element of compulsion to secure the end in view. In the general legislation of this country the element of compulsion had often been found necessary in order to provide for the requirements of the community. He was rot so unreasonable as to deny that compulsion should be established where necessary. Nor did the bulk of these with whom he 1423 generally acted object to the introduction of compulsory powers where necessary. This had been recognised in public health legislation and in railway Bills. But there was no case of that kind which could be compared with the compulsory powers now proposed. The Government had never established the necessity for, or justified the introduction of a form of compulsion more extreme and unjust than anything which the law at present knew. Under the form of compulsion proposed the authority charged with administering the Bill would exercise it in their own way, withdrawn from public criticism, and without any reasonable opportunity being given to those affected to present their case. He held that in this matter, as in others, where compulsory powers were exercised compulsion ought to be preceded by inquiry on the spot, open and public in its character, which could be attended by all the parties interested. The absence of such an inquiry was the greatest, but not the only, blot on the system of compulsion proposed by the Government. It was justly complained that the same tribunal was to be judge and jury, and to perform a variety of conflicting functions, while nothing was to be urged by those who suffered under the Bill. He did not know whether it was too late to plead again with the Chief Secretary for a revision of this part of the Bill. It was in the interests of the passage of the measure, in the interest of the Government themselves, and of those on whose heavily laden shoulders they were placing this burden, that they should still consider whether there might not be some appeal from the decision of the Estates Commissioners. It would lead to the more successful working of the measure if the Government would consider the separation of the functions of fixing the value and effecting the purchase. The Opposition had been accused of pressing the case of the new tenants too hard; but he thought that if the Government had made up their minds to get rid of the new tenants they would have been better advised to offer them a good sum of money than to deal with them by the provisions now existing in the Bill. It was proposed to find new farms for those 1424 who were to be dispossessed in order that the evicted tenants might be reinstated. This would create a social difficulty, not only as great as that which they were trying to remedy, but, he believed greater. There would be the greatest possible difficulty in finding a farm suitable for the new tenant who was to be removed from his holding. If it had been decided that the new tenants were only to be moved into holdings which they regarded as satisfactory he would not have had a word to say; but there was no condition of that kind attached. Here again everything rested entirely on the discretion of the Estates Commissioners, and he believed that, in its limited and partial form, it would add to rather than lessen the feeling of discontent and dissatisfaction which the Government said they were anxious to allay. He wanted to say a word on behalf of the occupying owner— the man who had been called upon to evict his tenant, not for the causes which led to the eviction of the Plan of Campaign tenants, but for other causes altogether, which appeared perfectly satisfactory to the owner. There were many cases where the owner, after losing the rents due to him, had decided to take the land into his own hands and had made a satisfactory and productive holding. What was the prospect of that man? He stood to be shot at like every other man who had done his duty by the land. He stood a chance under this Bill of having that land taken from him compulsorily, and of losing, not only the arrears of rent, but all the capital he had expended and the return he expected to get out of the land which he had put into good heart as the result of his own prudent and wise expenditure. These men, who had been a blessing to their neighbourhood, ought not, in the interests of fair play, to be interfered with as they would be under the provisions of the Bill [A NATIONALIST MEMBER, "How many are there?"] He entirely denied the opportuneness of that interruption. He was arguing a case of justice, and justice was not less important whether the cases were few or numerous. To argue that this claim was to be ignored because the number was few was preposterous. He did not know what the number was, but 1425 he believed it was greater than the hon. Gentleman appeared to think. In effecting this great land revolution and turning occupiers into owners, it was of primary importance that they should keep in the country a certain number of those who had the skill, the capital, and the social advantages which enabled them to set a good example, and to do the pioneer work so beneficial in every agricultural community if the standard of agriculture was to be kept at a high level. Therefore, he said these men had a claim on the attention of the House, not only because of the justice of their case, but also because they were playing an important part, and must play a more important part, in the agricultural history of Ireland. He hoped that even now the Government would consider whether they could not be specially safeguarded and saved from interference, because interference with them would injure the cause the Government had themselves at heart— namely, the advancement of the general agricultural prosperity of the country. There was a detail to which, he thought, the Government had not paid sufficient atention, and he hoped that even at the eleventh hour they might see their way to effect an alteration. He did not think the House had realised what the possible effect of the Rill might be to a landlord whoso land was taken, in regard to the cost of the operation. Admitting the simplicity— he thought even the barbarous simplicity — of the scheme of the Government, considerable cost must attach to carrying it out. He asked the Government to consider the position of the man whose land might be taken. Land might be taken from a man who had never had any difficulty with or evicted any of his tenants. Was it fair to take this man's land for a public purpose and against his will, and, because he happened to put on it a higher price than the authorised purchaser put on it, and resisted the methods of the Government, expose him to the risk of being called upon, not only to lose his land, but also to pay a heavy sum for the expenditure incurred in the operation? The Government ought to provide that whatever costs were incurred by the operation should be borne by the State. He wished to say one word as to Clause 12, under which the status of the Estates Com- 1426 missioners was to be altered. That Amendment was introduced under the closure, and by it the Government had made a very serious change, giving the Commissioners the status of County Court Judges. During Committee he received both from the Chief Secretary and the Attorney-General a definite assurance that it was not the intention of the Government to remove the Commissioners from the area of criticism by the House of Commons. Under Section 3 of the Act of 1903 power was given to the Lord-Lieutenant to issue regulations for the guidance of the Commissioners. Was there any precedent in history for giving men the status of judges and then saying they were to be guided by regulations made by the Executive Government? That was a startling change, and he could not help thinking that it had been done by mistake. He could not but think that the Government had not intended to keep in the hands of the Executive the right to guide these gentlemen in their work, and that their intention was to complete the change by repealing the sub-section of the Act of 1903. If that was the case, what became of the assurance that the Commissioners would be subject to the criticism of Parliament? If they were made judges they would be told that as judges they were removed from the criticism of the House of Commons. If that sub-section went, the Government would be exposed to the charge that the pledge given in Committee had not been carried out. He was not one of those who believed they could go on saying the same thing, that however good it might be, over and over again, but he must enter this caveat, that it must not be contended that, because they did not criticise at that stage all the parts of the Bill to which they objected, their objections had been in any way removed. The Bill was novel in its methods and machinery, and drastic in the way in which it was going to affect a great industry in Ireland, and it had been discussed in circumstances which he believed were abhorrent to the majority of Members of the House, for they had not been able to discuss many parts of the Bill at all. He regretted very much that it had not been found possible to provide a little more 1427 time which would have enabled the Government to carry the Bill without resorting to the drastic measures they had adopted, because the Bill would now go forth from the House only partially discussed in some parts and in others not at all. It was to be sent forth as a message of peace, to remove a great difficulty which stood in the way of progress and peace in Ireland. If he had thought the Bill was calculated to serve those ends he would have done anything he could, according to his conscience, to support it; but he did not believe that an end, however admirable, was to be attained by means in themselves improper. So far from believing that this measure was the right way to solve the difficulty with which they had to deal, he believed it was likely to complicate and add to it. He thought the Government had made a mistake in postponing the natural working of the Act of 1903, and he could only regard this as a measure which had been too hastily conceived, which introduced principles unjust and without precedent, and which in regard to its machinery was in some parts unworkable and in others workable only if the people concerned wore willing to sacrifice their interests to those of the community at large.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. BIRRELL,) Bristol, N.
said the right hon. Gentleman, in his clear and straightforward and admirable speech, had, he thought, made it pretty plain— and, indeed, he thought it was the only thing that had been made plain during these prolonged discussions— that the difference between the Government and, he would not say the whole of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but the majority of them, was a difference, not of principle, but of machinery and detail. The right hon. Gentleman had always most candidly told the House that in his opinion the reinstatement of the evicted tenants was a question which might fairly engage and ought to engage the attention of everybody responsible for law and order in Ireland; in other words, that it was a real question and a question not dependent on Party interests or dependent altogether on the merits of the evicted tenants, or even on their character—a question arising out of a political issue, 1428 out of a social movement, and largely out of legislation which the House had approved. Therefore, all of them, and especially those who were charged with the conduct of affairs, were charged with the duty of dealing with some reasonable degree of speed with this question. The right hon. Gentleman went a little further than some of his followers, because he said that he was not averse to the application of the principle of compulsion in certain cases. Assuming that it was necessary that it should be applied, the right hon. Gentleman would not rigorously hold out against it, and he thought he was right in saying that, so far as the right hon. Gentleman was concerned, and certainly so far as these persons were concerned who were primarily responsible for and desired to see peace and prosperity in Ireland, they were agreed that something must be done. The objections to the Bill related rather to methods and machinery than to anything else. That being so, it did seem to him very unfortunate that in the disposition of the time devoted to this measure in Committee— three and a half days— they should not have been devoted— he was making no charge against hon. Gentlemen opposite; all Oppositions were alike— they should not have been devoted to methods and machinery and detail instead of to arguing over and over again what he conceived to be the general principle lying at the bottom of this measure. Now, there was the question of an appeal. They never got to that question at all.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said that if there was any man who abhorred the guillotine it was he. It took out of a man all the fight and fettle and interest in his own measure. He did not care a bit about it. He came to the House bored to death. He knew the Opposition would take good care never to get to the most critical parts of the Bill, that he would never be called upon to do anything more than defend over and over again its general principles, which he had off by heart, which admitted of rotund sentences which flowed easily from the lips of most people, however small their natural 1429 capacity. There were, perhaps, parts of his measure which might be attacked by good arguments and could only be defended upon a balance of arguments. In such circumstances the Minister knew that his chance of achieving anything like a real success, not dependent on votes in the lobby, was to show fair-minded men that the balance of argument was in his favour. That was a task any man might be proud to undertake, and if he occasionally failed he would have the consolation of knowing that he had been engaged in a pursuit which was not unworthy of his past education. Upon that Bill, however, nothing had been done but to discuss over and over again Second Reading speeches and considerations. Now, on the Third Reading, hon. Members had brought forward those very questions which they most carefully avoided raising on the Committee stage. He could not reach the avenues of the minds of Gentlemen opposite for the purposes of debate in that House. They were blocked against him. But they must know perfectly well that, if they had not had some other object in their minds than useful criticism of the Bill, they would have been able in three days and a half, provided they had forborne from repeating Second Reading considerations, to discuss—[Cries of "No" from Mr. LONSDALE and Sir F. BANBURY.] Then he gave it up. There were some half-a-dozen Gentlemen opposite not personally interested in the discussion who had heard the greater part of the debate— a large number very wisely stayed away; he appealed to those half-dozen spectators without hesitation as to whether three days and a half in Committee was not ample time for a Bill of that sort. If it was not, it was hopeless ever to think of using the House of Commonse for the purposes of detailed criticism of a measure. He would have preferred that the Bill should have been properly discussed in detail, though it would have placed a far longer intellectual burden upon him than had been cast upon him by discussions which he would not characterise— he would not say anything rude. The measure was one in regard to which their differences were differences of machinery and method rather than of principle. The greater part of the time, however, had been spent 1430 in discussing the principle until now, rather late in the day, some valuable suggestions had been put forward. The Bill could not be worse in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman now than it was on its introduction. Though the alterations in it had not been very great, they had been in the direction of meeting the views of Gentlemen opposite. The right hon. Gentleman had made an impassioned speech, of a kind familiar to him as a lawyer, about costs. There was an eminent Judge who declared that first came costs, then law, and then merits. He had no great admiration for the Lands Clauses Act; it had proved a burden on the industries of the country. He, however, still agreed with the view of the Lands Clauses Act upon the question of costs. If a man's lands were taken from him compulsorily in the public interest we ought not to require him to put his hand into his pocket to pay any of the cost of appearing before the tribunal, whether his opposition was reasonable or unreasonable. If he chose to employ learned gentlemen he had a right to do so, though he could probably do the work much better himself. The matter involved no law, but had reference to the value of his land, the amenity of his estate, his own comfort, and other considerations which he was in a position to represent with greater force than any one else. Still he was entitled to have his costs, and a clause had been inserted in the Bill for that purpose, in which it was provided that the costs were to be taxed.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said it included any costs that were necessarily and properly incurred. If the clause would pass muster among the celebrated and distinguished authorities in another place, the Government had no objection to words being inserted with a view to carrying out its intention. The right hon. Gentleman's other point was about the tenure of the Estates Commissioners under Section 12. The meaning of Section 12 was that they should hold office by the same tenure as County Court Judges, simply, that was to say, with regard to their removability. It was 1431 not intended that their salaries should be taken off the Votes or that they themselves should not be subject to the full criticism of that House. The tenure of a County Court Judge had the advantage of being a safer tenure, but he would never propose that the salaries of the Commissioners should be removed from the consideration of the House. Commissioner Wrench had a salary that was placed on the Consolidated Fund, and so, in order to subject him to criticism, he was paid £500 a year more. He agreed that it would be a very absurd and lamentable thing if the Estates Commissioners were to be invested with the particular character of Judges which would prevent their being fairly criticised in that House. He was there to defend them, which was not the case with the Judges. It was possible to communicate with them, to argue with them, to persuade them, and to exercise whatever reasonable pressure the head of a department could bring to bear. He still thought he could discover no better tribunal than the three Estates Commissioners for the purpose of carrying out this measure. It had been said that it would have been better to follow the precedent of the Labourers Act. Under that Act land was taken compulsorily for the purpose of building cottages, and the Local Government Board appointed a single arbitrator. Supposing it had been suggested that he should appoint a single arbitrator to fix the value of the land, he did not think hon. Gentlemen opposite would have accepted the proposal. He would not have cared to suggest it. These three gentlemen were much better fitted to fix the value of land for the limited purposes of this measure than a single arbitrator, sometimes one man, sometimes another. He would shrink from appointing a single arbitrator. He would know very little about him to start with; and after he had appointed him he would hear all sorts of stories about his past life. He would not undertake the responsibility of suggesting that in a case of this sort the House should follow the example of the Labourers Acts. He still thought that these three persons were for the purpose the best that could be named. As some reference had been made to the evidence that Mr. Finucane gave before Lord 1432 Dudley's Commission, he would like to point out what was said by this blameless Anglo-Indian who had been represented as a person who had introduced into Ireland the most extreme Oriental ideas, who had not been educated in the spirit of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, and who could do almost anything if the public service required it. He found that Mr. Finucane expressed this view before the Commission, that —The owner was entitled to receive, and the State should give, a full and generous price which should yield the vendor the normal income he had received from the land during the preceding five or ten years.He did not think that a man possessing news of that sort could be accused of entertaining wild and rash ideas as to the sanctity of property. Not a single acre of the 81,000 which were supposed to be required under the Act would be paid for at anything less than its fair market value. He could not read in the Bill or see in its provisions the least desire to do that. His only fear— well, he would not say fear— but his belief was that they would probably get more from the Estate Commissioners than they would be able to get in the open market. He not ask the landlords to submit themselves to be robbed; nobody did. He did thought, however, having regard to all that had been done for them by this Parliament and by the Act of 1903, that they had done better than they expected. He did not quarrel with them for that, because a bargain was a bargain, and he would not go back upon it. He thought, having regard to the terms on which the Act of 1903 became law, and to the fact that it contained what was believed to be a generous provision for these very evicted tenants— of course voluntarily, because the whole scheme was voluntary— that they would not have got that measure had it not been believed, perhaps too readily and too sanguinely, that the question was going to be settled in a comparatively short time. Therefore he did not think it was too much to ask the Irish landlords that they should throw themselves into the matter and do their very best to fulfil all the promises and statements made by the noble Lord who had moved the rejection of the Bill in a singularly reasonable and 1433 admirable speech. He had not a word to say against that speech, and he would like due effect to be given to it. The British taxpayer had got to play his part; and they asked the landlords to play theirs. After all, the evicted tenants had not had such a good time of it during the last twenty-five years. Their case had been submitted to a pretty close examination and a considerable number had been eliminated from the list. The Estate Commissioners had rejected a considerable number, some on the ground of old age, some on the ground of poverty, some on account of their bad habits, and some because they would not be likely to thrive upon the land. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had drawn an awful picture as to the amount of pressure that would be exercised upon somebody or other. Well, a man in Ireland must resist pressure. That was all. He had to resist it. It was all very well for hon. Members to say they knew of a number of cases where he yielded. They did not know of the number of cases where he resisted. He dared say that if they were in his place, they would yield more than he did, though he did not say they would yield to the same people. Whatever Party in the State was in power, the person who occupied the position he occupied would at all events try and do his best in the matter, and when pressure was put upon him he must resist it if he thought honour demanded that he should. He was not going to admit that the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge was right in saying that almost every one of the people who had already been rejected would renew their claims and renew them in such a way as to make it almost impossible for the Estates Commissioners in the first instance or for the Chief Secretary or for the Government to resist their demands to be reinstated. He did not think that was so, and he regretted the somewhat scanning and nagging spirit in which a few Members, but by no means all, had received the measure. He thought the measure should have been treated as one which excluded a number of people, but excluded them for good reasons. He thought people should have said they would do their best, and that they would give the measure their support. It was an honest 1434 attempt to solve a difficult problem. He dared say that it would give rise to some dissatisfaction. Hon. Members opposite always assumed in one half of their speeches that the evicted tenants should be reinstated, but in the other half of their speeches they always wiped that assumption out. Assuming that the evicted tenants were to be reinstated, a measure of this kind could not be weighed nicely by the scale of gold. They had to take some rough-and-ready scheme. The tenants to be reinstated had to be those evicted before 1903, they had to give in their claim before May 18th, and their claims had to be investigated. A great number had been investigated. They had got to do their best, and it might require some courage to maintain their attitude. They had finally to limit the number to be reinstated, and there were very few cases outstanding. He did not wish to shut the gates of mercy on anybody, but at the same time they intended to limit the number, and they would have done so before the month was over. They had for the first time ascertained the dimensions of the problem, and it was larger than anybody thought. There was nothing unusual or unnatural in that. They now at all events knew the number and the acreage that would probably be required, and really the only question was whether they ought to apply the principle of compulsion at all. Everybody agreed that in certain cases—on the Clanricarde Estate, for instance—unless they had compulsion they would fail. He did not think they had enough untenanted land at their disposal to devote to this purpose, without injuring a cause which, apart from historical, political, and social reasons, was the more important of the two. He at all events could not be blamed for this circumstance, or have heaped upon his head the whole inherited history of Ireland. He did not wish in any way to take away land which was necessary to increase holdings so as to make them economic in order that people might live and thrive upon them. He really thought the time had come when it was necessary to have the compulsory powers this Bill offered. He felt certain that if they had not been in- 1435 cluded the measure would have hung fire for a great number of years and would have delayed the settlement of a question which everybody who knew anything about Ireland felt ought to be settled. They therefore felt it was necessary to take these compulsory powers. They took the Estates Commissioners, not because they considered them an ideal Court, but because they were a good Court for the limited purpose of the Bill, which was to fix the value of land. That was not a legal question and did not raise nice points and questions such as could be taken to the House of Commons. It was simply to say what was a fair price to pay a man for thirty or forty acres of land. Having the Estates Commissioners ready with all the accumulated knowledge they had acquired, they thought that on the whole they should give them the powers. The other courses which had been suggested were the setting up of an Arbitrator and; proceeding under the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, which, in the last resort, meant handing the matter over to a jury. He therefore thought they were acting in the interests of the landlords themselves, and that they could not do better than appoint the Estates Commissioners as the tribunal. In an ideal state of society he did not think there would ever be an end to appeal. He could assure the House that lawyers who had pushed their case to appeal and lost in the House of Lords never went away convinced that that was an end of all things in the Court of Eternal Justice. They would be quite prepared, if there was another Court, to take it up to it. In considering the necessity for appeal they had to consider really what were the points at issue. The point might become of such importance that an appeal was necessary. He was quite content to say that in matters of the utmost importance affecting life and property in a real and material sense they might have one, two, or three appeals, but in a question of this sort, a question as to value, again and again fixed by a single arbitrator without appeal, he held it was unnecessary to insist upon appeal and to demand such appeal in the name of eternal justice as the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone did the other day. Indeed, the noble Lord appeared to think 1436 that eternal justice and the Lands Clauses Acts were one and the same thing. His answer to the noble Lord was that, considering the nature of the case to which the principles were to be applied, and it being a question whether they were to give £20 or £25 an acre for land, they really thought, assuming that they secured an honest tribunal and an impartial tribunal so far as anybody could be impartial, they were doing what was required. He had been an umpire himself, and he knew exactly how much importance to attach to expert evidence on one side or the other. Though not an expert on the value of land, he came to a conclusion, which never afterwards rested heavily upon his conscience, because he was certain that within a few pounds one way or the other he gave a very good sound judgment. He had no reason to suppose that the Estate; Commissioners would not be able to form a good, sound, sensible, business-like view as to the value of land in the various parts of Ireland. To evoke the principles of eternal justice and to speak in the impassioned language of some hon. Gentlemen opposite, as if Irish landlords were to be despoiled and ill-treated, was to apply to a matter of this sort, which ought to be a philanthropic business language of great exaggeration, and he was perfectly satisfied that this tribunal, even without a Court of Appeal, would do substantial justice in Ireland. One word about the new tenants or planters. There, he quite agreed, they must act cautiously and warily. He had said repeatedly that there were new tenants whom to turn out would be a gross injustice. He would not say he had any particular estate or planter in his mind at the moment, but imagination had played around him. The Leader of the Opposition had described him living on his farm, begetting his children on the place, with all his affections crowded round the spot, and popular with all around him. Well, he quite agreed that that man should not be turned out. But how did the hon. Gentleman wish to meet such a case? He could not put all these rhetorical phrases into the Bill, and he could not by the exercise of any language restrict the discretion of the Estates Commissioners even in favour of men 1437 of this description. Everybody recognised that there were a considerable number whom it would be improper to turn out, but everyone recognised that a great many would be glad to go. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University made a suggestion that there should be no alternative farms offered at all. That was a matter well worthy of consideration, but he thought in the case of persons who were really farmers they would prefer to get the alternative offer. They might say they had not been happy where they were, but that having been farmers all their lives they did not want to be turned off the soil by being paid a sum of money. They might say they would sooner be treated as farmers and get a place somewhere else. He thought a man should have a choice between a farm and a sum of money. If he preferred the farm he should have it, or if he preferred the money he could take that. He therefore thought there was no injustice in it unless they assumed that the Estates Commissioners were going round to turn out people irrespective of every other circumstance of the case. He declined to put in any words which would restrict their discretion in the matter, because there might be one or two cases where it would be desirable in the interests of law
§ and order in a neighbourhood that a man should go. He did not know of any such case, but there might be one or two and they would have full and cautious consideration. He had introduced the Bill, not because of the rejection of the Irish Council Bill—they were always hearing that, and it was supposed to give him great pain, but he could assure hon. Gentleman opposite they might try to prick him with that barbed answer as long as they pleased and he would not claim the martyr's crown. This Bill had nothing whatever to do with the Irish Council Bill or its rejection by the Convention. It was brought in in consequence of a pledge given by him at the early part of the session. He had fulfilled that pledge to the best of his ability, and he thought that the measure, even if it passed into law without any further discussion, which, of course, it would not, because it would be considered in another place, would do good to Ireland, be an act of justice, and, if they liked, of generosity, and contribute to make the task of those who succeeded him easier.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:— Ayes, 228; Noes, 49. (Division List, No. 371).1439
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.||Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard Knight||Everett, R. Lacey|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Cheetham, John Frederick||Ferens, T. R.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Ffrench, Peter|
|Alden, Percy||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Flavin, Michael Joseph|
|Allen. A. Acland (Christchurch)||Cleland. J. W.||Flynn, James Christopher|
|Ambrose, Robert||Clough, William||Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter|
|Armitage, R.||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Fowler, Rt. Hn. Sir Henry|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Fuller, John Michael F.|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Cooper, G. J.||Fullerton, Hugh|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Corbett, C H. (Sussex, Grinst'd||Gibb, James (Harrow)|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Gilhooly, James|
|Barry. Redmond J.(Tyrone, N.||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John|
|Bell, Richard||Cowan, W. H.||Glover, Thomas|
|Bethell, Sir, J. H.(Essex, Romf'rd||Crean, Eugene||Goddard, Daniel Ford|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Crooks, William||Grant, Corrie|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Cullinan, J.||Grayson, Allbert Victor|
|Boland, John||Curran, Peter Francis||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Gulland, John W.|
|Branch, James||Delany, William||Gurdon, Rt. Hn. Sir W. Brampton|
|Brigg, John||Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Donelan, Captain A.||Halpin, J.|
|Brunner, J. F. L.(Lancs, Leigh)||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness'||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis|
|Brunner, Rt. Hn. Sir J. T. (Chesh.||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Byles, William Pollard||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Haworth, Arthur A.|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Elibank, Master of||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Esslemont, George Birnie||Hazel, Dr. A. E.|
|Hazleton, Richard||Maddison, Frederick||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradf'rd|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Henry, Charles S.||Marnham, F. J.||Roche, Augustine (Cork)|
|Higham, John Sharp||Massie, J.||Rogers, F. E. Newman|
|Hodge, John||Meagher, Michael||Rose, Charles Day|
|Hogan, Michael||Menzies, Walter||Rowlands, J.|
|Holden, E. Hopkinson||Micklem, Nathaniel||Runciman, Walter|
|Horniman, Emslie John||Molteno, Percy Alport||Russell, T. W.|
|Howard Hon. Geoffrey||Montgomery, H. G.||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Hudson, Walter||Mooney, J. J.||Sears, J. E.|
|Hyde, Clarendon||Morrell, Philip||Seddon, J.|
|Idris, T. H. W.||Morse, L. L.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.)|
|Illingworth, Percy H.||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Sheehy, David|
|Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Muldoon, John||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Jacoby, Sir James Alfred||Murnaghan, George||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Jardine, Sir J.||Murphy, John (Kerry, East)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John|
|Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Murphy, N. J. (Kilkenny, S.)||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Murray, James||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Jones, William (Carnarvon)||Myer, Horatio||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Jordan, Jeremiah||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Jowett, F. W.||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Joyce, Michael||Nicholls, George||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Kekewich, Sir George||Nolan, Joseph||Tomkinson, James|
|Kilbride, Denis||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Torrance, Sir A. M.|
|King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Ure, Alexander|
|Laidlaw, Robert||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Verney, F. W.|
|Lambert, George||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid||Vivian, Henry|
|Lamont, Norman||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Walters, John Tudor|
|Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds. S.)|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||O'Grady, J.||Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent|
|Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras, E.||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.||Wardle, George J.|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F.(Accrington||O'Malley, William||Waring, Walter|
|Lehmann, R. C.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich||Parker, James (Halifax)||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Partington, Oswald||Watt, Henry A.|
|Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek)||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Lough, Thomas||Power, Patrick Joseph||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Lundon, W.||Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Lupton, Arnold||Pullar, Sir Robert||Whiteley, John Henry (Halifax|
|Lynch, H. B.||Radford, G. H.||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Rainy, A. Rolland||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarth'n|
|MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Raphael, Herbert H.||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.)|
|Macpherson, J. T.||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro'||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|M'Callum, John M.||Redmond, William (Clare)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|M'Crae, George||Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n||Whiteley and Mr. A. J.|
|M'Kean, John||Rickett, J. Compton||Pease.|
|M'Killop, W.||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|M'Micking, Major G.||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Moore, William|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Nicholson, W. G. (Petersfield)|
|Ashley, W. W.||Craig, Charles Curtis(Antrim, S.||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Balcarres, Lord||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Faber, George Denison (York)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (CityLond.)||Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants. W.)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Fell, Arthur||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk|
|Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks||Gardner, Ernest (Berks, East)||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staff'sh.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Gordon, J.||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Gretton, John||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Harris, Frederick Leverton||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hills, J. W.|
|Cavendish, Rt. Hn. Victor C. W.||Kimber, Sir Henry||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Viscount Valentia and Mr.|
|Cecil, Lord E. (Marylebone, E.)||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter(Dublin, S.||Forster.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Worc)||Londsale, John Brownlee|
Question put, and agreed to.